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David Frost is seventy

Posted on 8 April 2009 | 8:04am

The birthday
dinner, which kept me from both the Champions League and The Speaker last
night, was for broadcaster David Frost. Seventy. 

Any suggestion the veteran broadcaster might be slowing
down was dispelled when his son Wilfred announced to the gathering at one
point that first thing this morning, his Dad was due to be interviewing the
Prime Minister.

What is extraordinary about Frost is that he will have woken up, even if tired
by a night’s partying, with the same enthusiasm to do a good job as on the
dozens of Prime Ministerial and Presidential interviews he has done before.

Seven Presidents, almost as many Prime Ministers as the Queen, who almost
uniquely has resisted his blandishments. So far. You can bet he’ll never stop
trying.

And of course, as Wilfred also pointed out very proudly, his father is now one
of that small number of people immortalised on stage and in a film carrying his
name in the title, whilst still alive.

Frost-Nixon is not just a good
story well told. It underlines the extent to which Frost is woven into the
fabric of our media history.

And if his ageless enthusiasm and passion for his work is one lesson we could
learn from, his refusal to take himself too seriously is another. Even his own
son made jokes about Through the Keyhole and Frost laughed with the rest.

There were plenty of well-known faces around the place, mainly from TV and
showbusiness, and even if the gathering was smaller than the huge summer
parties he throws, you have to recognise Frost’s formidable networking skills.
But it was former Foreign Secretary, David Owen, who said the thing about him
that stuck in my mind on the way home. He said while most of us could count
close friends on one hand, David had ‘an instinct for friendship’ which meant
there was nothing strange in seeing a room full of very different people who in
different ways saw themselves as his friends.

A part of me thinks it is a terrible waste that his main current affairs
show is now on Al-Jazeera International. Yet with the world’s media and
politics in such a state of flux, I guess it is fitting that the latest chapter
of his life in broadcasting is unfolding as part of one of the big media
stories of recent times.

One thing’s for sure. He has a lot of Prime
Ministerial interviews, parties and episodes of Through the Keyhole left in
him.

  • Ian Eastwood

    Well said, and a happy birthday frosty. I would put david in the same bracket as Parky, Alister cooke, and the dimbleby’s great oritors and as good at listerning as they are at talking, a rair quality these days.

    Just a word on one of the above Parky, Who is being berated this morning for saying what I have thought all along about Jade Goody. Sad as what happend, but get real. She was a talentless big mouth, famed for being nothing more than being obnoxious on a crap reality show.
    She represented everything I dislike about todays celebrity,s. Get some sensible people back on our screens and young people may gain a lot from there wisdom.

    Shit I think I may be turning into a grumpy old man and I am only 49 chill out Ian.

  • Adrian

    I’m surprised David Owen can count his friends on more than one finger.

  • Émilianna

    If the Queen will allow Michelle Obama to give her a “half-hug” (as the media so ridiculously termed the gesture), it’s conceivable she is within the reach of Frost. God knows I want to know what’s on the woman’s mind.

    Let us note that in the last week alone, Elizabeth II not only accepted a “half-hug” with a smile, she returned it — hear Charles wailing “she was never so affectionate with me!”. Also, our fearless monarch tsk-tsk-ed some Italian cave man; if she’s ever remembered for acting on behalf of the world(‘s women), it will for this. Next time, I hope she (or the German Chancellor) is prepared, staffer at the ready with a polo mallet for those pesky “Berlusconi situations”. Lastly, as I am writing this, Elizabeth II is likely blasting “Mamma Mia” through the headphones of that ipod she got from a brother with a past in South Chicago’s hoods. We should admit it, the lady has definitely been down with the people of late. Window of opportunity for Frost.

    I’m not sure the film Frost/Nixon will serve the interviewer’s legacy in the long run. Ron Howard’s flick is so devoid of cinematic qualities, it should be taught in film schools as an example of a film that is aggressively anti-filmic. Besides, the man who plays Frost really must go back to have the cosmetic surgeries he got done to play TB in “The Queen” reversed. That actor’s face is simply disconcerting.

    Content-wise, I don’t want to take anything from Frost’s achievement but the film relates a political/journalistic moment that won’t necessarily resonate down the generations. It is rather footnote-ish historically.

    Still, anyone who outlives their fifteen minutes in a profession like broadcast journalism is worthy of recognition and admiration. What a career.

    Happy birthday to you, Mr. Frost.

  • Brian Barder

    Frost has long been a much underrated interviewer. His smooth, almost obsequious approach, generally mistaken for softness and malleability, often extracts uncomfortable truths more effectively than the pit bull terrier technique of the Paxmen and (sometimes) Humphryses. I thought the film Frost/Nixon missed this essential point about Frost’s underlying seriousness and dogged persistence, overplaying his playboy element and ignoring the sharp political antennae (first on display in TW3, largely ignored by the film). He’s a more formidable political performer than most commentators give him credit for.

    Brian
    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  • John Cheyne

    The best thing about Frost’s interview style is that he doesn’t have one. At least he isn’t nearly as one-dimensional as many current interviewers. His style is dictated by who he is interviewing. I love Jonathon Ross but he has a certain style and sticks to it. Similarly Paxman had a very different style, but he too sticks very closely too it. Frost just changes when needed to get the best out of any particular interview. I suppose only Parky has come close to being able to do that so effectively. In an interview back in October 2005 Frost Himself had this to say about modern political interviews:
    “I think there are more pointless hectoring interviews. You only need to be an adversarial interviewer in an adversarial situation. When I was interviewing Nixon on the Watergate or the notorious swindler, Dr Emil Savundra then these had to be confrontational – but it is pointless to be confrontational otherwise. Confrontation tends to shut people up when the task is to draw them out. ”
    That kind of says it all. Full interview here http://keeperofthesnails.blogspot.com/2005/10/interview-with-sir-david-frost.html

  • mikey

    Hey….we like David Frost too…..but where were your b’day wishes for my dad?

  • Alina Palimaru

    Frost was brilliant in his interviews with Nixon. Some younger Americans now suggest that perhaps if Jon Stewart of the Daily Show had interviewed Nixon, the President might have admitted the wrong-doing in the first 15 minutes of the interview and thus would have spared viewers the pain. Perhaps… I admire Jon Stewart tremendously and think he would have done an excellent job of wiping the floor with Nixon. But Frost’s brilliance was that during the extended interviews he successfully revealed how Nixon’s intelligence had been overcome by assorted pathologies. Frost had much at stake with that interview, the make-or-break sort, and I think the series solidified his reputation of a respectable journalist.

    AC, I am inclined to agree with that half of you which thinks that it is “fitting” that David Frost is now imparting his wisdom on Al-Jazeera International. I would like to believe that people like him appearing in pan-Arab media programmes could transition these outlets from “incite” to “insight”. I admit to not knowing to what extent Al Jazeera International differs from more regional and locally minded Al Jazeera affiliates, but still it must have some impact on Middle Eastern audiences. Clearly, Arab media are in their inchoate stages of development, and this immaturity often manifests itself in lower levels of professionalism. Nevertheless, the rise of pan-Arab media shows Arab audiences the benefits of having exposure to different, contrasting opinions. People like Frost could guide the process meaningfully.

  • Alan Quinn

    Frosty and Parky are two of the all time great interviewers, many have tried to emulate them (including Ally’s “mate” Piers Morgan ) and most have failed. It’s a pity they don’t do as much TV as they used to but they deserve their rest as they’ve done the business in the past.
    Ian Eastwood you’re absolutely right about Jade Goody. The image these moronic reality TV shows give out is; don’t study, don’t graft, be an ignorant idiot because one day you’ll be an overnight millionaire.

  • Émilianna

    Canukistani here: not sure Parky means “Paxman” but I’ll just assume it does. Paxman really knows his stuff, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he’s an iconoclast.

    He also happens to be the best weather news reader ever.

    So far, he has only three tweets under “JPaxman” on Twitter…of course, they are accidently brilliant and hilarious. The old curmudgeon act really works for him.